"Progress and Poverty," self-published by Henry George in 1879, was both enormously popular and influential in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He proposed a single tax---on the value of land---to solve the problems of modern society:
"What I, therefore, propose, as the simple yet sovereign remedy, which will raise wages, increase the earnings of capital, extirpate pauperism, abolish poverty, give remunerative employment to whoever wishes it, afford free scope to human powers, lessen crime, elevate morals, and taste, and intelligence, purify government and carry civilization to yet nobler heights, is---to appropriate rent by taxation.
"In this way the State may become the universal landlord without calling herself so, and without assuming a single new function. In form, the ownership of land would remain just as now. No owner of land need be dispossessed, and no restriction need be placed upon the amount of land any one could hold. For, rent being taken by the State in taxes, land, no matter in whose name it stood, or in what parcels it was held, would be really common property, and every member of the community would participate in the advantages of its ownership."
In the "The Economic Mind in American Civilization, 1865-1918" (1949), historian Joseph Dorfman describes why many readers were attracted by George's theories:
"George was not completely at ease in the realms of economic theory; but his sense of mission carried him on. Despite his keen recognition that he was on the 'outskirts, intellectual as well as geographical,' he had a high spiritual quality that more than made up for his intellectual deficiencies. . . . George had advantages over others in the field. He not only offered a simple remedy, but he also wrote with a brilliance that matched his passionate sincerity. . . . By and large, the mass of professional economists were disturbed by the book. . . . Nevertheless, George's emphasis on the ethical basis of any economic system brought a broader outlook to the study of economics. After him, it was difficult, if not impossible, to dismiss economics without relating it to the structure of the society within which it operated."
Excerpts from George's treatise are posted here. On January 16, 1889, he addressed a joint session of the Minnesota Legislature about his single-tax plan. That evening, he fielded questions from an audience of businessmen, lawyers, real estate agents, railroad officials and others at Market Hall in St. Paul. A report of the legislative session and the public meeting was published in the St. Paul Globe the next day, and is posted in the Appendix. The newspaper article concluded, "About thirty persons signified their intention of joining the [Minneapolis Single Tax] league."